By Jayden Presley
Three players contribute as top scorers on the University of Montevallo men’s basketball team. One of these players is guard James McNeil, who said he began playing basketball when he was around six or seven years old.
“Basketball really changed everything I did after I started playing on a team,” said McNeil. “I was gone all day in the summer time playing in tournaments. Basketball really changed my life. I wish y’all knew what I had going on.”
He started playing the game in his neighborhood of Jamaica in Queens, New York. Before coming to UM, McNeil played junior college basketball at Frank Phillips College.
“When I committed it was great. Coming out of high school with no offers just made me wanna go harder,” he said.
His favorite moment in his basketball career happened during his sophomore year in junior college. McNeil hit two back-to-back, three-point shots to win a game, adding, “I just took matters into my own hands.”
McNeil said that Kyle Lowry and Jamal Crawford are two professional basketball athletes that he sees as role models.
Lowry plays for the Miami Heat, and he is a six-time NBA all-star who won an NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors in 2019, the first title in their franchise history. Crawford retired from the NBA in 2020, playing for multiple teams throughout his career, and is considered one of the best ball handlers in NBA history.
Now a senior mass communication major, McNeil said he came to UM for its academics and because of the school’s basketball program. He keeps a routine to balance schoolwork and athletics.
“Plans after college is to try to play professionally overseas,” said McNeil. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all UM athletes were given an extra year of eligibility to compete in their sport, so he plans to use that year to think about what to do after his basketball career is over.
As of Jan. 18, McNeil averages 12.3 points per game, totaling 35 steals out of 17 games. The men and women’s basketball teams will have three more home games this season, then the beginning of the Gulf South Conference Tournament on March 1. Tournament location and time has not yet been decided.
Jayden Presley is the sports editor for The Alabamian. She is a sophomore mass communication major, concentrating in multimedia journalism, and also minors in creative writing. She enjoys writing in her spare time, drawing and playing video games.